Source:savannanews24.com/Hamza Lansah Lolly:
The Executive Director of women rights advocacy NGO, Songtaba, Hajia Lamnatu Adam, has made a passionate appealed to the government to close-down the witches camps dotted around the three Northern Regions. Speaking to mark this year’s International Day of the Rural Women today, Hajia Lamnatu urged the government to resource the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to take action in halting and disbanding the witches’ camps in the three Northern Regions. The International Day of the Rural Women is mark every year to celebrate and recognize the contribution of rural women to national development. The theme for the celebration is “Rural Women and Girls Building Climate Resilience”.
According to the Songtaba CEO, the theme for this year’s celebrations is most relevant as the world is faced with the negative effects of climate change, saying that, the world is faced with the critical need to act against climate change. She noted that, the theme highlights the important role that rural women and girls play in building resilience to mitigate the climate crisis. The Executive Director of Songtaba Hajia Lamnatu Adam, says the accusation of witchcraft level against only women is an aged long cultural practice and therefore urged the Government to make sure within the four years in power disband the witches’ camps and send the alleged witches back to their various home.
“As we mark this day, Songtaba draws the attention of Ghanaians and the international community to an age long phenomenon that has violated the rights of many women and girls and have robbed them off their productive years to contributing to the nation’s development”. She stated
Hajia Lamnatu noted that, witchcraft accusation is a widespread phenomenon in northern region resulting in the existence of five alleged witches’ camps that houses about 200 women living in exclusion. “Persons accused of witchcraft are exiled into these camps and they lose all family support systems and dignity. Their social and economic rights are continuously violated. Access to basic livelihood opportunities becomes a challenge to these socially excluded persons who do not have access to food, health and proper shelter”.
She said, structural barriers and discriminatory social norms continue to constrain women’s decision-making power and political participation in rural households and communities, saying that, women and girls in rural areas lack equal access to productive resources and assets, public services such as education and health care, and infrastructure, including water and sanitation.
“The situation is even worsened by women who for no faults of theirs are banished into the camps and denied of any productive resources and they disproportionately experience poverty, exclusion and the effects of climate change”. She added
Data available show how significantly women have contributed to the global development especially in the areas of food security by women smallholder farmers and so therefore we will be endangering our nation if we continue to banish women out of our communities to live in excluded camps where they can no longer contribute meaningfully to national develop based on suspicion and allegations that cannot be proven.
Over a decade, Songtaba have worked with both state and non-state actors as well as the alleged witches to develop strategies to put an end to this phenomenon of witchcraft accusation in the country. A reintegration committee is in place working closely with the camps leaders and gradually reintegrating the women back to their home communities.
In the last two years, Songtaba adopted a new strategy of working with district assemblies to develop Gender Equality and Social Inclusion by-laws to help reduce the incidence of witchcraft accusation and to safeguard the rights of women and girls. Four districts in the Northern region have fully adopted the bylaws and have started implementing them in their districts. Another set of 5 district assemblies are at various levels of getting the by-laws passed and gazetted.
The Executive Director of Songtaba, Hajia Lamnatu called on traditional authorities, religious leaders and relevant opinion leaders to openly denounce the accusations of witchcraft against women and show support towards reintegration of the alleged witches to back the communities.